Congress selected its own leader, Fabian Alarcon, as interim president in a move aimed at ending a weeklong political crisis. Alarcon, who received the presidential sash in a swearing-in ceremony, is to call elections within 12 months and govern until August 1998. Flamboyant former President Abdala Bucaram, who calls himself El Loco, or "the crazy one," was sacked Thursday by Congress for "mental instability." Congress installed Vice President Rosalia Arteaga as a caretaker president until it could choose a new leader. Arteaga had threatened not to leave the post, saying the constitution makes no mention of the role of an interim president. She changed her mind Monday after meeting with military leaders, but before she resigned she issued a decree calling for a national referendum on whether the country's vice president should succeed the president if the position becomes vacant. Bucaram has left the country to spread word that "a civilian dictatorship has been imposed." He told reporters and a small group of curious onlookers after arriving at Panama City airport: "I am president of the republic. I never resigned and never will resign."